It looks like it’s going to be a fantastic new year, because this morning the first e-mail I received was one informing me that I’d just inherited the princely sum of 15 million U.S. dollars, an amount of money not to be sniffed at.  I sat back for a moment to ponder exactly what this would mean to my life, or more importantly the lavish and luxurious ways in which I could now flitter away my new found wealth.

With dreams of private jets, glamorous dancing girls and perhaps my own island I opened a beer to toast my riches, and the supposedly distant unheard of relative, who had been generous enough to make me their sole beneficiary.

Nigerian e-mail Scams

I’d been contacted by a Mr. Ali. Mazah, a bank worker from a West African country called ‘Burkina Faso’. He informed me that a distant relative of mine had died and had left me the sum of 15 million dollars, and that through the easy process of me sending him my passport and bank details, he would be able to transfer my money to me.

Bank Phishing Nigerian Scams

The term ‘Nigerian e-mail scam’ has become an umbrella term encompassing any type of e-mailed bank detail phishing, it is generally believed that these e-mails are the product of west African gangs involved in organized criminal activity, but it is just as likely that the ‘Nigerian element’ is no more than part of a story, that was once used with success to obtain private information from victims, and as such is still recycled to form part of this most infamous of online scam attempts.

Nigerian e-mail scams are also known as ‘419’ scams, with the number referring to the article of the Nigerian Criminal Code (part of Chapter 38: "Obtaining Property by false pretences; Cheating") dealing with fraud.  419 or Nigerian scams are based upon a much older scam known as the ‘Spanish Prisoner’ scam, in which the trickster tells the victim that a rich prisoner promised to share treasure with the victim in exchange for money to bribe prison guards, with versions of this scam being traceable back to the 18th century.

Despite the best efforts of my Yahoo in-built spam filters I still receive several ‘Nigerian’ scam e-mails to my inbox each month, and they all go a little something like:

Example Nigerian Scam Email:

‘Dear Friend,

I am Mr Leslie Mushasha from Nigeria . I want to seek your assistance after my discovery during auditing in my bank as am the manager of Bill and Exchange at the Foreign Remittance Department of BANK OF AFRICA,(B.O.A.) In my department I discovered an abandoned sum of USD$50 trillion US dollars in an account that belongs to one of our foreign customers who died along with his entire family in plane Crash,

Since his death, we have been expecting his next of Kin to come over and claim his money because we can't release it unless somebody applies for it as his next of Kin, please I want you to stand for me as his next of kin so that the bank will transfer the fund into your account then I will come over to meet you in your country for my own share, do not view this as been illegal but an opportunity as await your urgent response to enable me give you more details. please reply with those information's below so that I can know you very well before I go ahead with you, If you are not interested please delete it..

Your passport or id card.
Your age.
Your private telephone number.
Your country.
Your profession. 

Remain bless,
Mr Leslie Mushasha

Does anyone ever fall for a Nigerian e-mail scam?

Whilst you would assume that nobody in their right mind would ever fall for such thinly veiled and poorly worded trickery, logic suggests that at least from time to time, they are met with success. A friend of mines mother had her bank account emptied a year or so ago by somebody who had caught her off guard with the telephone equivalent of the Nigerian e-mail scam, they had been just convincing enough and had caught her at just the right time when she was in a rush and hadn’t been thinking clearly, so despite being a usually sensible person, she’d handed over her bank details without thought to a scammer posing as a bank employee, and hours later her account had been emptied.

So whilst the more web-savvy amongst us might mock those who are caught hook, line and sinker by these Nigerian scams, it is not us who are the targets, but the occasional internet surfers, and those unprepared and uneducated to the wide array of mischief’s, that lie in wait online.

What should I do if I receive a Nigerian scam e-mail?

Ignore it and delete it.

Sooner or later despite your best efforts your e-mail address will start to appear on the lists of those who conduct nefarious activities online, this is all but guaranteed. One option would be to throw money or time at the problem by upgrading software or through tweaking spam filters, but the most effective method of dealing with Nigerian scam e-mails and the like is to simply exercise a little common sense, and to remember that old saying that you’ve no doubt heard many times before.

‘If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!’

But with that said, I often imagine these Nigerian bank workers sat around at their desks, scratching their heads in confusion, and wondering why none of these strange foreigners ever come forward to collect such a large inheritance, as they issue instructions to throw sacks full of unwanted money back into their vault.